DeMar DeRozan’s volume of shots key to winning basketball for undermanned Bulls

Lonzo Ball is heading for surgery to repair a small tear in his left meniscus. That’s a big blow, but DeRozan won’t allow it to be used as an excuse.

SHARE DeMar DeRozan’s volume of shots key to winning basketball for undermanned Bulls
The Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan says trusting his teammates is the way to continue winning. That will be especially true with Lonzo Ball expected to undergo surgery on a torn meniscus.

The Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan says trusting his teammates is the way to continue winning. That will be especially true with Lonzo Ball expected to undergo surgery on a torn meniscus.

Paul Beaty/AP

The 24 shots Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan took Wednesday against the Cavaliers weren’t out of the ordinary.

He has taken that many shots six times this season.

What would have been out of character was if he felt the need to put up 35 shots or more.

‘‘Six years ago, I probably would have tried to shoot 40 times and thought that was what was needed to get a win,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘My mentality is different, understanding I need every one of those guys out there. I lean on them just as much as they lean on me.

‘‘That’s the only way you can be successful in this league and win big is trusting your teammates. I find great pleasure in doing that.’’

That’s why DeRozan works so well with this group. He always believes in center Nikola Vucevic, even when he is struggling and doesn’t appear to believe in himself. He considers guard Lonzo Ball such a talent that he thinks the Bulls have a ‘‘Big Four’’ with himself, guard Zach LaVine, Vucevic and Ball.

That ‘‘Big Four’’ won’t be playing together for a while, however, with the news Thursday that Ball will have arthroscopic surgery to repair a small tear in the meniscus in his left knee. He will be out six to eight weeks.

Once LaVine (sprained left knee) returns from his injury, that will leave Coby White or rookie Ayo Dosunmu as the other starter in the backcourt, and no one has sung Dosunmu’s praises louder than DeRozan.

That’s why DeRozan has been thrilled with Dosunmu’s last three performances as a starter — two double-doubles, then 18 points against the Cavs.

‘‘His maturity,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘The presence he brings, you wouldn’t think he’s a rookie. You’ve got to be special to carry yourself in that type of way. It’s not an arrogant way, always holding himself accountable. That’s big for a young guy to do that. The confidence he has is amazing. You see he’s just always ready for the big moments.’’

And asking hundreds of questions along the way.

DeRozan said few young players he has been around have been as inquisitive as Dosunmu. And DeRozan is there for all of it. He’s there to teach his teammates how to play winning basketball with his words and his actions.

That goes back to the shot attempts. Playing on a similar team record-wise as the 2020-21 Bulls last season, DeRozan had six games as the leader of the Spurs in which he put up 23 or more shots. The Spurs went 4-2 in those games.

LaVine had 11 games last season as the leader of the Bulls in which he put up 25 or more shots, and the Bulls went 4-7 in them.

LaVine has learned from DeRozan about how to approach the fourth-quarter frenzy of a tight game and about shot selection, trusting teammates over forcing shots. LaVine has only two games this season in which he has reached the 25-shot threshold, and the Bulls are 1-1 in those games.

Does LaVine have better teammates than he did in previous seasons? Of course. But he also has learned that trusting his teammates builds them up, whether he is in uniform or in street clothes. The Bulls are 3-2 without LaVine this season after going 5-9 without him in 2020-21.

The Bulls won’t have LaVine for at least the next three games, including a big one Friday against the defending champion Bucks in Milwaukee. But that doesn’t diminish the excitement for the showdown.

‘‘Defending champs,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘I’m looking forward to it. Those are games you look forward to.’’

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